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Thomas Jones: Flashman

9 May 2002
... Voldemort, ‘that blackguard Flashman, who never speaks to one without a kick or an oath’. George MacDonald Fraser’s series of novels about him – known collectively as The Flashman Papers, the first of which appeared in 1969 – are, I would guess, read much more widely than their worthy Victorian forebear, and deservedly so. Ditching all that ...
20 August 1992
Quartered Safe Out Here: A Recollection of the War in Burma 
by George MacDonald Fraser.
Harvill, 255 pp., £16, June 1992, 0 00 272660 2
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Tyrants and Mountains: A Reckless Life 
by Denis Hills.
Murray, 262 pp., £19.95, June 1992, 0 7195 4640 0
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... Sir Harry Flashman VC, was himself a man at arms. As a one-striper in General Slim’s 14th Army George MacDonald Fraser took part in ‘the last great battle in the last great war’, a showdown which was also ‘the final echo of Kipling’s world’. More specifically, it was the struggle for Meiktila and Pyawbwe on the Rangoon road which settled ...

Giant Goody Goody

Edwin Morgan: Fairytales

24 May 2001
The Complete Fairytales 
by George MacDonald, edited by U.C. Knoepflmacher.
Penguin, 354 pp., January 2000, 0 14 043737 1
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Ventures into Childland: Victorians, Fairytales and Femininity 
by U.C. Knoepflmacher.
Chicago, 444 pp., £24.50, June 2001, 0 226 44816 9
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... and the invisible coat Of Jack the Giant-killer, Robin Hood, And Sabra in the forest with St George! The move from wonder to instruction might seem an inevitable consequence of the move from oral to literary tales. But even a highly literate tale like Alice in Wonderland cannot be reduced to the didactics of ‘Don’t talk to rabbits’ or ‘Watch out ...

You must not ask

Marina Warner

4 January 1996
Lewis Carroll: A Biography 
by Morton Cohen.
Macmillan, 592 pp., £25, November 1995, 0 333 62926 4
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The Literary Products of the Lewis Carroll-George MacDonald Friendship 
by John Docherty.
Edwin Mellen, 420 pp., £69.95, July 1995, 0 7734 9038 8
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... in a providential state of natural goodness (and possessed untrammelled innocence). Carroll met George MacDonald in Eastbourne in 1854, at the speech therapist’s where he tried to cure his stammer; structural and thematic coincidences abound between Phantasties and the Alice books, as the MacDonald scholar John ...

Diary

Karl Miller: Football Tribes

1 June 1989
... are to be found in the Middle Ages among the fighting families of the Anglo-Scottish Border, as George MacDonald Fraser’s book The Steel Bonnets makes clear.* His synonymous reivers, raiders or riders used to get off their horses and play the football that became soccer and rugby, and they were not afraid of a few fouls: ‘some quarrel happened ...

Hoist that dollymop’s sail

John Sutherland: New Victorian Novels

31 October 2002
Fingersmith 
by Sarah Waters.
Virago, 549 pp., £12.99, February 2002, 1 86049 882 5
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The Crimson Petal and the White 
by Michel Faber.
Canongate, 838 pp., £17.99, October 2002, 1 84195 323 7
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... novel? Here’s a beginning, with apologies to Sarah Waters and Michel Faber (and a nod to George MacDonald Fraser): London, 1860. November. A pea-souper billowing up from the flotsam bobbing in the Thames. The gas lamps already blearing. Good things of day begin to drowse. The rookeries are emptying, and their birds of prey making wing to the ...
7 January 1993
The Two Forgers: A Biography of Harry Buxton Forman and Thomas James Wise 
by John Collins.
Scolar, 317 pp., £27.50, May 1992, 0 85967 754 0
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Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship 
by Anthony Grafton.
Princeton, 157 pp., £10.75, May 1990, 0 691 05544 0
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... This blanket description would cover everything from Chatterton’s fake poems to George MacDonald Fraser’s ‘Flashman’ spoofs without any automatic presumptions of wrong-doing. Carter and Pollard’s unmasking of T. J. Wise with their Enquiry into the Nature of Certain 19th-Century Pamphlets (1934) is often described as an exemplary ...

Descent into Oddness

Dinah Birch: Peter Rushforth’s long-awaited second novel

6 January 2005
Pinkerton’s Sister 
by Peter Rushforth.
Scribner, 729 pp., £18.99, September 2004, 0 7432 5235 7
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... hasn’t read, or doesn’t remember. Oscar Wilde, the Brontës, Robert Louis Stevenson, Tennyson, George MacDonald, Charles Reade, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Louisa May Alcott, Wilkie Collins, Mary Braddon, Conan Doyle, Du Maurier, and plenty more. Her literary memory is a compendium of every syllabus in Victorian ...

Being Greek

Henry Day: Up Country with Xenophon

2 November 2006
The Long March: Xenophon and the Ten Thousand 
by Robin Lane Fox.
Yale, 351 pp., £25, September 2004, 0 300 10403 0
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The Expedition of Cyrus 
by Xenophon, translated by Robin Waterfield.
Oxford, 231 pp., £8.99, September 2005, 0 19 282430 9
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Xenophon’s Retreat: Greece, Persia and the End of the Golden Age 
by Robin Waterfield.
Faber, 248 pp., £17.99, November 2006, 0 571 22383 4
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The Sea! The Sea! The Shout of the Ten Thousand in the Modern Imagination 
by Tim Rood.
Duckworth, 272 pp., £12.99, August 2006, 0 7156 3571 9
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... narration.’ Lawrence’s own view of the Anabasis was tellingly different. It was, he wrote to George Bernard Shaw, a ‘pretentiously simple’ tale, ‘cunningly full of writing tricks’. The essays in The Long March, a much needed new companion to the Anabasis, provide explanations of some of these tricks. Whether analysing the Ten Thousand as a mobile ...
4 September 1997
The Fu Manchu Omnibus: Vol. II 
by Sax Rohmer.
Allison and Busby, 630 pp., £9.99, June 1997, 0 7490 0222 0
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... as a male concubine to this Eastern Circe.’ That is the sort of career break the Flashman of George MacDonald Fraser could have taken in his stride, but Rohmer’s males have ‘a marked streak of puritanism’ in them, saying things like ‘I had never been a woman’s man’ or ‘I was never a squire of dames.’ Their ability to keep their minds ...

Orphans

Joan Aiken

17 July 1980
... Dick, the hero of The Black Arrow, Jim, in Treasure Island – have all shed their progenitors. George MacDonald, in the realm of fantasy, was equally severe with his main characters: Irene, in The Princess and the Goblin, has a king-papa, to be sure, but he is hardly ever there; her mysterious grandmother comes and goes in a very arbitrary manner, and ...

Trounced

C.H. Sisson

22 February 1990
C.S.Lewis: A Biography 
by A.N. Wilson.
Collins, 334 pp., £15, February 1990, 0 00 215137 5
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... Billy Graham’s old college – in the collection of memorabilia of such Christian writers as George MacDonald, T.S. Eliot, Charles Williams and Tolkien. It is evidence of some sort of fame. A.N. Wilson sees ‘unmistakable and remarkable evidence of something like sanctification which occurred in him towards the end of his days’, but that I do not ...

The Great Escape

Philip Purser

18 August 1994
The Fortunes of Casanova, and Other Stories 
by Rafael Sabatini, selected by Jack Adrian.
Oxford, 284 pp., £15.95, January 1994, 9780192123190
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... name of Errol Flynn (as star) above two of them, Sabatini was not only a ‘history-teller,’ as George MacDonald Fraser defines his art in a foreword to The Fortunes of Casanova, but one who delighted in a spot of swashbuckling. At the same time he was recognised as a serious historian who had published authoritative biographies of Torquemada and ...

But this is fateful!

Theo Tait: Jonathan Lethem

16 March 2017
The Blot: A Novel 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Cape, 289 pp., £16.99, February 2017, 978 0 224 10148 6
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The Blot 
by Jonathan Lethem and Laurence Rickels.
Anti-Oedipus, 88 pp., £6.99, September 2016, 978 0 9905733 7 1
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... in your hometown’. Stolarsky had idolised Bruno at school – he still calls him Flashman, after George MacDonald Fraser’s dashing anti-hero – and he and Tira seem immensely tickled to have run into him. Bruno suspects that they are swingers, and both hint repeatedly that there might be room in their open relationship for him. In his hour of ...

Big Acts

Ross McKibbin

19 February 1981
Portrait of a Progressive: The Political Career of Christopher, Viscount Addison 
by Kenneth Morgan and Jane Morgan.
Oxford, 326 pp., £15, May 1980, 9780198224945
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... most of the pre-1931 leadership of the Labour Party had done the same thing – for a Lloyd George Liberal and a minister in Lloyd George’s Government it was not only odd, it was singular. Thus he was a minister under Lloyd George (1916-21), ...

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